Mitch Williams: 'How Can Any Fan Be Sympathetic to a Billionaire?'

Jordan Cohn
June 12, 2020 - 6:56 am

When asked about the ongoing negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA, former Philadelphia Phillie Mitch Williams posed a simple question:

"How can any fan be sympathetic to a billionaire?"

Many former and current players have expressed frustration throughout the weeks-long back-and-forth between the owners and players. Players have stood firm in demanding pro-rated salaries as agreed upon in the March 26th agreement, while owners have consistently said they will lose massive amounts of money if salaries are not renegotiated.

Given the massive valuations of MLB teams and the net worths of owners, it makes sense that the players are perturbed with the way things are going, and comments recently made by some of the league's owners have made matters worse. For one, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt said in a radio interview that baseball "isn't very profitable" despite players thinking "owners are hiding profits," (via Jesse Rogers of ESPN). 

Williams joins the wave of frustrated voices, including aces Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty, who have called statements like this one into question and asked for answers as to where organizational money is truly going. Scherzer released a message on May 27 on his often-inactive Twitter, saying that he thinks "MLB's economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information." 

According to Wild Thing, who joined Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team on Friday, that's not a new desire.

"The owners have been asked to do one thing since I was 21 years old in 1986," Williams said. "All I've ever heard: show us your books. When we have gone through negotiations with them during bargaining agreements, they refused to show us their books.

"He (Bill DeWitt) said there is a distrust there, you're damn right there is a distrust there. If there was any trust, you would show us your actual books. They won't do it because the sport is extremely profitable. For all the fans sitting at home listening to that, that's garbage. Are you kidding me?

"Listen to this: no one pays anyone $36 million dollars a year if they don't have it. It's that simple."

The new surge in player requests for more opacity from the owners isn't difficult to understand. The salary cuts that owners have asked players to accept in some of their proposals are staggering. In the late May proposal in which MLB offered a "sliding scale" salary structure, Bryce Harper's $27.5 million 2020 contract would have become $6.5 million. Though the MLBPA has made it abundantly clear that they're not willing to accept a proposal like this, the league has not yet offered a deal that would provide nearly the type of money that most players are looking for. Even worse is that Rob Manfred has the power to mandate a significantly shortened season, at which point players might have no choice but to accept or sit out.

Williams, typically a sporadic and relatively inactive Twitter user, unleashed a slew of posts earlier this month to vent his frustration toward the owners. Just one of those tweets highlighted the missed opportunity given the state of the sports world due to coronavirus.

He additionally said that owners and league executives are "destroying the game" and that, based on how things are going right now, "common sense has no place in baseball."

We have to hope he's wrong. But based on recent negotiations and the trajectory of ongoing talks, we can't deny the possibility that he's right.

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